Orlando Vacation: Universal Studios

universal studios
The entrance to Universal Studios complex

Aside from visiting Disney World, we went to another theme park here in Orlando – Universal Studios. Since we were traveling with two girls who had never been to Universal Studios, let alone Florida in general, we made it a point to squeeze in a couple of days at both parks. This is my thoughts on the Universal Studios park. Islands of Adventure will get a proper mention in a future post.

simpsons ride
The Simpsons Ride

One of the major rides to hit here is The Simpsons Ride, which has been open for the last 6 years. It replaced the Back To The Future ride, which I sadly never made it to either of the Florida or California parks to ride while it existed.

The ride uses a roller coaster setting, where Sideshow Bob takes over and tries to derail any fun for the Simpsons. It’s uses the same type of technology as Star Tours and many other rides, simulating falling, speeding up and turning and twisting. Very fun ride and one that I had ridden before when I first visited the theme park in late 2009.

The ride queue adds all sorts of fun, playing clips of various Simpsons episodes as well as new animation made to compliment the ride experience. If you’ve not ridden this, you should. A well done experience for any Simpsons fan.

Harry Potter Diagon

harry potter diagon
Diagon Alley

Recreated in every sense of stunning and visual awe. The two girls who are very much big Harry Potter fans agreed. They were blown away and excited to see this movie experience come to life in stores, restaurants, walking paths and a ride called Escape from Gringgotts Vault. The ride was awesome. Very well done, exciting and tons of visual effects. It was a mine car experience that took you through the vault and got you out. The line queue recreated the inside of the bank vault with perfection, right down to bankers at their teller stations in animatronic motions.

I really liked this ride a lot. In fact, we rode it twice – once as a group, which took just 40 minutes in line. The second time was as single riders, which took just under 30 minutes. If you are a Harry Potter fan, this ride is worth it.

harry potter diagon
More of Diagon Alley

And the rest of the experience to see Diagon Alley was sure to please any hard core fan with no complaints at all. Of special mention, Knockturn Alley was done right. The darkness, the store and all of the decor was great. The day we went, it was raining, which added to the entire effect.

Reba In The Spotlight

disaster ride reba
It’s Reba in her “ride” acting role

One of the rides we went on was called Disater: The Movie, which has Christopher Walken playing a director who only films disaster movies. At the start of the ride, the MC asks for volunteers to participate in the mock movie, shooting various scenes and injecting them into their canned footage. My wife Reba got picked to be the grandma. So she was up front and on the small stage where they filmed people doing various shots. Her claim to fame for the day was at the very end of the trailer they showed at the end of the ride.

The ride actually had a part where you board a mock subway train that rocks back and forth, hence the disaster part of the mock up movie. It was quite humorous to watch.


I want to be a Minion

Since Despicable Me is a Universal film, they made a ride from it, where you get to be a Minion. But not really. It was another motion ride where you sit and it goes through the task of following Gru and the Minions after they zap you from being a human to being a Minion. But not really.

It’s a cute ride, but it seemed to be a bit long in the intro part of it. I would have preferred just to going into the ride and getting into the motion car. But overall, it was cool.


Lockers at Universal Studios

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of Universal Studios is how many rides force you to put any backpacks or purses and loose items into a locker, which you “rent”. The rental definition is where things get blurry.

For example, we rode the Men In Black ride and had to put our items into a locker. It’s not the biggest of lockers [during my frustration, I neglected to take a photo of the ride lockers, so the above photo is of the all-day lockers, which are much larger and cost $8 a day] but it works for small knapsacks and purses.

The locker is secured by your finger or thumb print, which you scan before you get a locker number assigned to you.

You get a specified amount of free time, based on the wait time of a ride. Which can change often. So we had 26 minutes of free time. As it turned out, we got back to your locker 28 minutes later. In order to get your stuff out, you have to use dollar bills or a credit card and pay a bounty of $3.

At The Mummy Ride, we had time, but the finger print scanner didn’t recognize my thumbprint, so we had to get an attendant to open the locker for us. I get that rides where you go upside down, you should put your items in a locker. But many other rides like Men In Black and the Mummy, there was no need to use a locker. I might have to respond via their website with my opinions.

Overall, it was a fun to see the park again. And even the small amount of rain we had today, it wasn’t a damper on the fun. I left that damper to the locker fiasco/scam.


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